Overview - Drywall Tape
© Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com
Drywall tape is one of those inescapable realities of home remodeling. In order to join two sheets of drywall (i.e., brand-name Sheetrock), you must first tape over the seam before applying joint compound.
It sure would be nice to just slop some joint compound (also known as mud) into the seam and call it a day. Unfortunately, you cannot do this, because the two sheets will eventually loosen and move just enough to start developing hairline cracks in the joints. Then, slowly the joints will start to crumble.
Drywall tape reinforces joints and lets the mud do its work.
Join us in our drywall tape overview as we look at several basic types of drywall joint tape: paper, fiberglass, metal-backed, and even some other types.
Paper Drywall Tape
Paper drywall tape is the oldest, most "classic" type of joint tape. What is it? A strip of paper. Very long paper, usually in rolls of 75 feet or more. Really, it's nothing more sophisticated than that. Just paper, but very strong paper at that.
Paper drywall tape takes some learning. You need to first prepare the wall with some drywall mud, a process known as "bedding." Then you lay down the joint tape. Then more mud. It can be difficult for new DIY remodelers to learn, though pros have no problem at all working with paper tape. In fact, some pros prefer paper tape over other types.
- Cheapest type of joint tape available.
- Widely available.
- Can be used for inner corners.
- Can be ripped off by hand.
Buy Direct - Paper Drywall Joint Tape
- Difficult for new drywallers to learn.
- Hard to use on corners.
- Weakest joint tape of all.
- Requires initial layer of mud to get tape to stick to wall.
Fiberglass Mesh Tape
When fiberglass mesh drywall tape came on the market, everybody cheered with joy. Finally, a strong drywall tape! In fact, mesh drywall tape is downright impossible to tear. It's basically fiberglass threads woven together into a tape-like form. You could hang from the stuff, it's that strong. But it does have its downsides: it is gummy and hard to handle, and it's thicker than paper joint tape.
- Extremely strong.
- Self-adhering to the wall.
- Must be cut with scissors.
- Tends to start shredding into threads.
- Gummy adhesive can be annoying - and doesn't always stick when you want it to.
- Thick tape leaves a bump in your finishing.
It's tempting to use fiberglass tape for everything. But according to Mark McVeigh, a drywall contractor for over 25 years in Pompton Lakes NJ (link below), fiberglass mesh tape has its limitations, especially with small repairs. It seems counter-intuitive, but paper tape can work better, and Mark explains why:
I have done every small repair that
you can imagine, as well as my share of new construction. I Googled the topic of
your article just to see what I might find. A great deal of the work that I do now,
is smaller jobs. What I am finding confirms my experience with the mesh products. I
repair more joints that have cracked, both factory and butts, than almost anything
else. Very often, I will be called to repair other problems and I find cracked mesh
joints like crazy.
I never use the product. Every time I have experimented with it, it cracks. First,
it is not designed to be used with regular joint compound. It is supposed to be used
with "setting compound" like EZ-Sand or Duro-Bond. These dry harder and are more
resistant to cracks. That having been said, the paper-taped joint is a much longer
lasting joint, and one that more resembles the actual drywall product itself.
Buy Direct - Fiberglass Drywall Joint Mesh Tape
Take your average paper tape, lay down two strips of very thin metal running the length of the tape, and leaving a small gap between the metal. That's your average metal-backed paper drywall tape.
This kind of joint tape might actually be categorized in the "corner bead" section, because it cannot be used on flat surfaces. It is mean to be creased length-wise, and then applied to either inner or outer corners. Because it's already got the crease, you don't have the creasing problems of ordinary paper drywall tape.
- Easy to crease.
- Stronger than plain paper drywall tape.
- Perfect for inner corners.
Buy Direct - Metal Drywall Corner Tape
- Must be cut off with scissors.
- More expensive than plain paper drywall tape.
Thin Fiberglass Tape
I'll admit that I was working up to this drywall tape (drumroll anyone?). What do you like about paper drywall tape? Well, it's thin. Now, what do you like about mesh tape? It's strong.
How about if we combine the two qualities? FibaTape Perfect Finish is a mesh tape that doesn't have the "thready" qualities of classic mesh tape. And it's thinner than paper joint tape. Manufacturer Saint Gobain claims that FibaTape is 30% thinner than paper tape. I'm not sure about that claim, but it certainly is thinner than ordinary mesh joint tape: so, no more bulges.
- Thin joint tape - great for butt joints.
- Stronger than paper tape.
- No loose threads.
- Self adhering to wall.
Buy Direct - FibaTape Perfect Finish Ultra Thin Drywall Joint Tape
- Must be cut with scissors or knife.